This was my first official beer and cheese pairing party. When planning this, I decided to use pairings I had tried and didn’t branch out too much. A good rule of thumb when planning an cheese pairing is to start with lighter flavors and crescendo to heavier flavors. Basically, if you start with a resiny hop beer as your first pairing, you will only taste those flavors for the rest of the pairing. I also chose to serve the beer in 9 oz cups because you don’t want people to feel compelled to drink the beer all at once. As you will see, everyone got enough beer, don’t worry.
To start, I decided that I wanted to run a nice brown ale with some light creamy cheeses. I happen to be a card carrying member of the Rogue Nation, and have always wanted to pair the nuttiness of this brown ale with cheeses that have a similar flavor. Some people hear Rogue Nation and think its some progressive political group but its really a lot more important than that. I chose two cheeses to pair with this as well as the other beers.
Meadowkaas Spring Cheese and Trader Joe’s Double Cream Gouda. Very light creamy and nutty cheeses that really bring out the roasted chocolate and nut flavors of the brown ale. The double cream gouda is self-explanatory and the extra cream gives it a rich creamy texture. When cutting this, make sure these cheese is cold and your knife is sharp because it will stick to the knife and be difficult to cut. The Spring Cheese is interesting because it reminds me of a Swiss cheese. The cheese is made using a the milk from animals that have been grazing on the younger grasses after the winter. It has a good sweetness and is slightly firmer than the gouda. The fruit is just a good way to give people something extra to eat and it also acts as a palate cleanser in between beers. After this we jumped to my favorite beer and cheese pairing.
This is my favorite cheese. No question. It is a cheddar style cheese rubbed with a crust of lavender and espresso. It pairs well with so many beers and I have never seen it anywhere except the Whole Foods at 14th and P in DC. My parents have actually tried to find it in New Jersey but most stores don’t like to ship it out from Utah especially during the summer. That means my father buys 5/6 wedges every time he comes into DC. Its a fantastic cheese and pairs perfectly with….
Schlenkerla, what more can I say about this beer? I love this pairing. The lavender and espresso work like a nice ham crust with the meaty smokiness of the smoke beer and the firm cheese gives a nice fattiness to the pairing. It’s a fantastic flavor pairing that I always enjoy. Schlenkerla is always my first choice for smoke beer. You can go to bars and have people tell you that a certain smoke beer is like Schlenkerla. Maybe in style, but nothing is truly like Schlenkerla in the smoke beer category. I decided to fit this pairing second because the beers only got stronger from here.
I wanted to break out a Barleywine, but it just isn’t quite the season for it yet. Also, the ones you can find are too expensive to justify purchasing for a pairing with a large number of people. The beer has a nice malty sweetness and the hops bring out an oaked/coconut/citrus/pineapple flavor that really gets enhanced by the pungent characters of the blue cheese. The beer is strong enough to stand up to the cheese just like this next beer.
This beer has a funny story behind it both in its creation and for me. This beer is based on the twin constellation Gemini and is a blend of the Southern Tier imperial pale ale Hoppe and imperial IPA Unearthly. Its a strong citrus resiny beer with a large malt flavor that imparts toffee and biscuit notes. I was reading the label in the beer store and it mentions the 2 person space missions in the 1960’s when I got a message from a friend telling me Neil Armstrong had just died. This had to be the beer for this tasting. I needed a strong hop beer and I felt it would be a good tribute to Neil Armstrong. It really was a fantastic choice to pair with the blue cheese. It brought out the creaminess of the blue cheese and really had a good fruity mango citrus flavor to blend with the cheese. After you break out the last beer, there really is no right or wrong way to continue the night. It’s nice to have everyone bring a bunch of beers to try with the cheeses after the pairings and the pairing becomes like any other party.
Anyway, I hope this post will inspire you to get some friends together to try out your own beer and cheese pairings. This event sounds really high brow but in reality its just like any other good time with your friends. I don’t think anyone should be afraid to do this sort of event. Stay tuned for a special beer football post as well as a recap from Heavy Seas Pyrates Pigs & Pints which is on September 15th.